Cabarrus home schooling continues to grow
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Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

Cabarrus home schooling continues to grow

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/15/17/20/8qBEL.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - LISA THORNTON
    William Storta, 10, watches a school of fish swirl around him at Sea Life Aquarium in Concord. William took part in the educational field trip arranged with other home schooling families.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/15/17/20/PQiqV.Em.138.jpeg|411
    - COURTESY OF DOREEN BROWNING
    Today, a wealth of material is available for home schooling families, such as used curriculum swaps sponsored by home-school organizations. But it wasn’t always that way. “Back 15 years ago, what was readily available was a Christian-based curriculum, and a lot of it was literature-based,” said Doreen Browning, president of Enrich, a local home schooling support group unaffiliated with any religion or specific educational philosophy.
  • Want to go?

    What: Enrich sixth annual Used Curriculum Sale

    When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., April 25

    Where: Frank Liske Park’s Barn Shelter, 4001 Stough Road S.W., Concord

    Details: www.enrichnc.org

On April 25, stacks of used textbooks, puzzles, educational DVDs and probably a few model skeletons will take over the barn shelter at Frank Liske Park for Enrich’s sixth annual Used Curriculum Sale.

The event, sponsored by Enrich, a local home-school support group, has become a well-known opportunity for home schooling families – some coming from as far away as South Carolina – to pick up educational materials no longer needed by the sellers, whose children have moved up to the next grade.

It’s a far cry from the struggle home schooling families dealt with 15 years ago when seeking educational resources like textbooks, which were practically kept under lock and key by publishers back then.

“You kind of had to network, and know somebody who knew somebody,” said Doreen Browning, Enrich’s president, of the early years trying to secure material.

“Now you can just go on Amazon and purchase a used high school textbook.”

Browning, who lives in Harrisburg, began home schooling her children, now a senior and a sophomore in high school, in 2001, when the movement to home-school was still a quiet undercurrent in the state.

According to the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education, back then 366 of the 20,113 home-schools in the state were in Cabarrus County.

Those numbers have more than tripled. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 1,276 of the 53,347 home-schools in the state were housed in this county.

The growing popularity of home schooling has caught the attention of businesses looking to fill the home schooling niche for educational materials.

On a sunny afternoon at Concord Mills, the quiet calm that’s typical during off-peak hours at the mall was interrupted by the giggles of two dozen home-schooled children as they wrapped yellow cardboard underwater goggles around their heads and stole peeks into the dark caverns of the Sea Life Aquarium.

Businesses like Discovery Place and Sea Life Aquarium offer educational lectures and programs for home-schooled children, who get a discounted group rate.

“We get probably three to four home-school groups a day,” said Milton Ware, who works in the education department of the aquarium. Ware just recently returned from a home schooling convention to better learn the needs of the nontraditional students and parents. It’s a niche, he said, they’re hoping to tap into more at Sea Life Aquarium.

“We’re being seen as a group that you can market to – that we have needs,” said Browning.

Resources are even being offered from what some would say is a most unlikely place: This year, Cabarrus County Schools rolled out HomeReach, a service that allows home-schoolers to take courses online and earn a CCS diploma if they choose.

“We offer advanced middle school and high school courses because, at that age, parents might be having difficulty teaching them,” said Jim Williams, who oversees the program. “It’s our way of staying relevant with the community we serve.”

This year, 12 people are enrolled in HomeReach, a relatively low number, Williams said, because the rollout came after parents had most likely ordered their home curriculum.

“We anticipate between 30 and 50 next year,” he said.

Browning called the program innovative and said it’s one more resource available today that wasn’t when she began home schooling more than a decade earlier.

“It’s kind of the ultimate in individualized education,” she said. “Now with all the resources, it’s a lot easier.”

Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at lisathornton@carolina.rr.com.

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